04 July 2010

(sigh) I guess it's time

My poor mother. She's been politely asking me for months to update this blog. And I, being the forever disobedient, stubborn and lazy daughter, haven't done so.

But here I am, finally.

FYI, I think part of the reason I haven't updated is because of facebook... I figure almost anyone who knows me well enough to care what's going on in my life must be my friend on facebook -- so they know I'm fine and happy, and there isn't much more to say beyond that.

But I don't post that much on facebook anymore, either, so I guess it's time to at least update here. :)

So what's been going on at my end of the swamp?

Well, I'm busy at work, thankfully. And even more thankfully, I still love my job, and love the place I work. I feel incredibly blessed to work in an environment that seems to be as similar to having a giant, mostly understanding family as possible.

More importantly, I'm still ridiculously in love with my husband and being married to him. I have heard so many people talk about how hard the first year of marriage is. I guess it must be true, but I haveta say -- it isn't nearly as hard as living alone for most of my adult life was. Sure, there has been a learning curve, but it's been mostly fun and exciting... like taking the awesomest field trip, with the awesomest teacher.

We went to Sweden for two weeks at the end of May. That was an interesting trip. My husband's parents don't speak any English at all, and although his brother speaks some, his brother doesn't live with his parents. So either my husband had to translate for us, or we made due most of the time. His mom had bought an English/Swedish dictionary, and I had learned a bit of Swedish before we went... and it wasn't nearly as hard or stressful as either one of us had originally thought it might be.

And his parents are just great -- they're kind and funny, and they spoiled us rotten.

The last few days of our trip were spent with a friend of mine from our WUJS days, in southern Sweden. That was an interesting experience, because I didn't know her husband, and she didn't know my husband, and our lifestyle is vastly different from their lifestyle. But my friend and I had a great time, and we let our husbands do their thing without us most of the time. The extra bonus was their two-year-old daughter, who was just adorable and SO much fun to hang out with.

Now, there's a part of me that would like to just end this post and say that's it for what's going on in our lives... but then I'd be lying, and I'm not so good at that.

One of the biggest reasons I haven't posted in a few months (besides the laziness, of course) was that I couldn't talk about the biggest thing going on in our life -- I could have, I guess, but I didn't want to.

See, in our community it's considered as if we're inviting the Evil Eye (G-d forbid!) if we talk about pregnancy openly. And even when we find out that someone's pregnant, we do NOT say "congratulations" or "mazel tov", because again -- it's as if we're inviting trouble. We say "b'sha'ah tova," which means, "in a good hour". We wish women health and happiness and an easy pregnancy, but we do NOT congratulate them on something that hasn't successfully happened yet.

So for the last almost five months, I have been avoiding posting, and avoiding friends, and even avoiding emailing certain people, because I felt that without being able to share something so important to me, I would be lying by omission.

G-d willing, we are due at the beginning of November. My poor mother and father were put in a situation where we told them, but asked them not to tell anyone at all -- for 11 weeks! And G-d bless them, they kept it quiet.

But we're slowly coming out of the closet -- well, it was slowly, until this post, I guess.

But I do ask, very sincerely -- please don't post about it on my facebook, and do not say "congratulations" or "mazel tov". It's too early. G-d willing, sometime around the beginning/middle of November, we'll have plenty of time for those.

Right now, we would be very happy for prayers and happy thoughts, that our baby should be born healthy, and Baby's momma (me!) should be healthy, and there should be no complications along the way.

And *now*, I can say that's about it for what's going on in our lives.

I was going to rant a bit about politics, but I'd rather go finish my dinner.

Hope ya'll are well.

25 December 2009

Happy end of December :)

This entry is actually owed to my mom... who, the last time I was sleep-disordering and up in the middle of the night emailing her, suggested that the next time I would be up in the middle of the night, I might as well update my blog. So here goes:

As you may have guessed, if you've been playing along, life's been pretty busy around here. I posted last on my birthday, I think... which had come right after all the holidays... which had come right after getting married... which had come right after getting engaged... you didn't think life would actually calm down for me, didja?

So after my birthday, it was time to dig full-force into apartment hunting. Shaul and I were very demanding... we wanted something in crowded Nachlaot (the name of our neighborhood) that would be high enough to have a view, with a balcony, and not be yucky, moldy, paint-peely, and gross like my old apartment was. We wanted an apartment with an actual bedroom with a door (as opposed to a studio or "two room apartment" wherein the two rooms don't actually have a door between them. We also, of course, wanted it within our budget.

Since we got married, we had been living in two apartments... one brand-new studio apartment with a great balcony and a great view where we actually lived, and one cave-apartment with all my stuff. I was doing all the cooking at the old apartment and schlepping it to the new apartment. Laundry needed to be done at the old apartment. In the penthouse studio (okay, so it was on the 3rd floor, but it was the top floor, and we had it all to ourselves = penthouse), we had only a small, dorm-sized fridge, so almost all the food had to stay in the old apartment as well. There wasn't enough room in the new apartment for me to keep an entire week's worth of clothing, so at least once a week I needed to schlep dirty clothes back and bring clean clothes over.

Needless to say, it didn't take long before I was sick and tired of that.

(For the record, the penthouse was approximately 10 feet x 10 feet, or 2.5 meters x 2.5 meters.)

I had thought it would be relatively simple to find an apartment here, as we had what I considered to be a reasonable budget, thank G-d, and I had been seeing apartments in our price range listed on the real estate sites. Unfortunately, once Shaul would go to visit them, we'd realize the apartments were dark, no natural light, or old and yucky.

We made a deal that by the 25th of November, when our month-to-month lease would be up, we would move out of the penthouse and into the old apartment, so as not to be paying double rent and not to have to schlep so much anymore. We made another deal that we would stay in the old apartment no longer than one month, even if it meant that we'd move into a place we did not love, as long as it was a place we did not hate.

I have to also say that my landlord of the last 3.5 years was simply awesome. For a year and a half, I've been on a month-to-month lease, because he didn't want my lease to be something that could, G-d forbid, prevent me from being "free" enough to get married. And once I told him I was engaged, I got nothing but blessings from him... along with the freedom to keep the apartment month-t0-month and just let him know at the beginning of each month whether or not I would be staying. What a beautiful person he is!

Around two and a half weeks before we were due to move, we went away for Shabbat. As we passed one tall building, Shaul looked up and said something like, "I wonder what the view is like from that apartment." My answer was that if it were the top apartment, it might be pretty great, but anything under that, the view would be blocked by the building next door and the giant tree.

Also around that time, we found a small apartment in a tall, modern building in the area. I didn't really like the apartment much, and Shaul didn't love it, but it seemed like a better alternative than moving into the old apartment. It was a furnished apartment, which was problematic in that we already had a bunch of furniture, including a washing machine and a full-sized refrigerator. Also, the furniture was like something out of a modern, tacky motel... the couch was hard as a rock, the two living room chairs were small and uncomfortable, there was a strange "bar table" along the wall, and the bed wasn't suitable for us.

We talked it out, and we decided that if the landlord would take out all the unsuitable furniture, we could make the apartment work. On a Thursday afternoon, around 2 in the afternoon, I called the agent and told him our conditions. He said he would call the landlord's representative and call me back.

Meanwhile, Shaul decided one last time to go by the office of another agent we'd been dealing with. Until then, the agent hadn't had anything promising -- either stuff was *way* above our budget, or it was crud. But Hashem sent Shaul there that afternoon to pop in, just to try one last time.

The agent told Shaul that he'd just gotten a listing that day for an apartment he thought would be perfect for us. It was in our price range and had lots of natural light. The owner of the apartment would be in Jerusalem Friday morning, and Shaul should bring his wife (me!) to see it, since the owner wasn't in Jerusalem every day. They made arrangements for us to see the apartment at 8:30 the next morning.

At that point, I had a feeling that we would actually love the apartment. After all, I had already called the other agent and told him we'd take it, and Hashem is great for putting me in situations where I have to scramble to do "the right thing" after figuring out what "the right thing" even IS. Shaul didn't feel confident at all -- it was more like a "why not?" kind of thing for him at that point, because he'd been so disappointed in the other apartments he'd seen. (He went and saw almost all the apartments while I was at work, and only if something *might* have been suitable, did I arrange to go see them.)

That Friday morning, we met up with the agent and walked to the apartment. We came across the main street, walked around the corner and up the stairs. As soon as we walked into the apartment, we knew we loved it. We had balconies on two sides of the apartment. The balconies have big glass doors and windows, which means sunlight comes in from the south and the west. The bedroom of the apartment was almost as big as our penthouse. It was a brand-new apartment -- no one had ever lived in it. It even had a small room for the washing machine. It was unfurnished, and the apartment looked absolutely gigantic compared to the penthouse.

And I don't remember at which point Shaul realized it, but at some point during our visit, he said to me, "isn't this the apartment I pointed at last week on our way out of town, and said I wondered what the view would be like from up there?" And YES, it was! Absolutely -- and even though it's not on the top floor -- it has a pretty awesome view :-)

We couldn't believe that the apartment was in our price range, but sure enough, it was.

The landlord originally said he wanted a relatively small deposit, and I was very surprised. In Israel, the law sides with the renter, so the landlords often ask for huge deposits and co-signers in order to protect their investments. A few days later, when the agent got back in touch with us, she said he'd changed his mind and wanted a bigger deposit -- it was a huge disappointment for us, as he was asking for something at that point that seemed not to be realistic for us.

Fortunately, thank G-d, we came to a different agreement -- one much more like the way apartments are rented out in the U.S., and much more within our means. The landlord was even awesome in letting us officially start our lease on the day we'd move out of the penthouse, but we had the key over a week ahead of time, so we could arrange for it to be cleaned (from all the construction dust) and start moving little things in.

We hired movers, and we moved everything from the penthouse on our last day there, to the old apartment. The next day, the movers came and moved 90% of our stuff to the new apartment. I hadn't had time to finish organizing the last 10%, so we left it there temporarily.

We then had almost two weeks to finish moving out of my old apartment... I, of course, took until the very last day to finish... but finished on time, nonetheless.

Another awesome part of this is that we had ordered a bedroom set with mattresses, but they were likely to take two to four weeks to be delivered. The awesome guy at the store told him he'd try to put a rush on it, since we were a bride and groom, but he couldn't guarantee... so he arranged that on the day we'd move in, they would deliver temporary beds for us (my old bed wasn't big enough for two of us). Then, a couple of weeks later, or so, we would get our bedroom furniture and real mattresses.

The morning we were moving, the furniture delivery company called and told us they would bring all of our real furniture, and just a temporary set of mattresses, on the day we were moving in. We would have our real beds -- just with temporary mattresses, with the plastic still on them. The guy said it was the evening before an Arab holiday, so it was possible that they would deliver everything, but only assemble the beds, and then they'd be back the next week to assemble the rest.

As it turned out, they stayed and assembled the whole set for us, so on our first night in our new apartment, we got to sleep on real beds, in our real bedroom.

(For the record, we both would have preferred Jewish labor, but in this case it wasn't our decision.)

And now we're in our new apartment. Our miracle apartment, which we both love very much.

I'm *still* unpacking and trying to figure out where things can go... we have my old bed set up as a couch, and my gigantic folding table is our regular eating table... but slowly, slowly, things are starting to come together.

And at the moment, I'm up in the middle of the night on one of my sleepless kicks, but since we're going to our adopted family in Arad for Shabbat, G-d willing, I don't have Shabbat preparation work to be doing at 4 in the morning, so I've been able to share with you a bit of our awesome apartment miracle.


In other news, I love being in Israel at this time of year, because it truly is the Jewish country, and other than facebook, I could easily forget that it's xmas and the new year coming up. I also love being married to my awesome husband. I love my job, and I love my friends. I love my life, thank G-d!

Happy end of December to you, and may 2010 be a year of experiences that we easily recognize as good!

20 October 2009

Happy birthday to me!

I still haven't gotten the hang of being depressed because I'm another year older... I see it happen in other people, and I get it, but I have to say yet again -- my life gets better every single year I am alive.

Sure, there's stuff I'd like to do, and I wonder if I'll have the opportunity in this lifetime to do it... but whether I do or not, it doesn't change the fact that my life is freakin' awesome.

And this year, I have an amazing, awesome, terrific husband with whom to share my birthday.

And this year, I finally catch up with the age I was born... as Mom says I came out of the womb a 38-year-old midget, and I'm finally, finally 38. Of course, in many ways I'm much younger now than I was when I was born... so maybe I'm regressing. Whatever.

Here's a wedding picture for you hungry people :-)

15 October 2009

More wedding stuff

Posting two days in a row -- must be a holiday or something. ;-)

So back to the wedding stuff...

After the pictures, I went back up into the hall. Shaul was sitting and speaking with the rav, and there was crazy loud music playing.

I should tell you that when we left to go do the pictures, the tables had been set up by my family, but there were no tablecloths, plates, etc. (Apparently they had tablecloths for a baby boy's brit milah [circumcision] ceremony, and A, my good friend, nixed that idea and let them know they needed to have more wedding-appropriate tableware.)

When we came back, the tables had been completely re-arranged, and they magically had place settings.

I guess it wasn't really magic -- it was the people at the hall, inspired by the loud music, who got things moving.

Yet both Shaul and I are very sensitive to loud noises, so the one moment that I turned into a demanding bride was when I insisted to the hall director that they turn down/off the music immediately. As he was trying to explain to me that it was only for their motivation purposes, I was trying to explain to him that the loud music hurt both my fiance and myself, and it needed to be turned down/off RIGHT NOW. He got the point, and they turned it off, thank G-d.

We were then a bit afraid, because instead of having place settings for 80, as we'd theoretically expected and set up for, suddenly we were down to 64. I guess it was fine, however -- I don't know that anyone left because there wasn't a seat for him/her, because somewhere around 10-20% of the people who had RSVP'd that they would be there did not, in fact, arrive.

In Israel, btw, a wedding of fewer than 100 people is considered almost miniscule. I had many friends who were hurt, I think, by not being invited... and, thank G-d, many more who were kind and understanding, and if they were hurt, they didn't show me at all.

Anyway, after the pictures, I needed to pray some before people started showing up. We were expecting people to start arriving around 11am, with the first part of the ceremony set to start at 11:30, or as close to that as possible.

In Israel, the time for the bride and groom to start greeting guests is usually one hour before the ceremony is supposed to start. Generally, the bride and groom are both ready to greet guests within a few minutes of the expected time, but the ceremony starts between 30-70 minutes later than the scheduled time. I was insistent that if G-d would send us exactly what/whom we needed for the ceremony to take place, it would start on time, and anyone who missed it would miss it. Because of Shaul's health situation, and both of our needs/desires to start things on time, as well as the fact that we were having our wedding while many people would be coming on their lunch breaks, we really wanted to start on time.

After I did my praying, it was a few minutes after 11. When I walked out of the tiny room I'd been in, there were almost no guests yet. I was doubting the possibility of starting on time. By 11:15ish, one of our witnesses had not yet arrived.

And suddenly, it was as if the floodgates had opened, and everyone showed up. I was busy giving blessings to people who asked for them, loving seeing such beautiful, holy friends and family come for our simcha (joyous occasion), and Shaul was busy signing the wedding contract with our witnesses.

I'll try to get pictures up soon... but for the moment, it's time to start getting ready for work.

More another day...

14 October 2009

Um, okay, I'm married now...

My mom has been reminding me to update this blog -- guess time got away from me, as I was a teensy bit busy.

Even now, I don't have much time... I'm drinking my coffee, trying to wake up, while my husband (!) is at shul for morning prayers.

The last bit more than a month is something of a blur in many ways. The last few days before the wedding, I was going crazy trying to get everything done in time... I was making a Shabbat dinner for Shaul's family and mine - nine people - with almost everything made from scratch, because I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to food. And I figured it might be the only time I would have the opportunity to make Shabbat dinner for our families together, because it may not happen again in the future that everyone's in one place at the same time.

Shabbat day was spent with Shaul -- our last quiet time before the wedding. That evening, my amazing, beautiful, holy friend A came and picked me up from Shaul's and proceeded to kallah-sit (bride-sit) and take unbelievable care of me until after the wedding. I went to the mikveh (ritual bath) on Saturday night, then A sat up with me making lists and lists and lists, and running errands, and making sure everything was in order for the Big Day.

And the Big Day itself was amazing and beautiful, and I hope I can somehow remember it forever. I was spoiled in the hair/makeup chair, being taken great care of by two beautiful women who made me feel like a queen. I had a photographer from the time I got out of the taxi in the Old City, walking me through the alleyways on the way to the hall. Upon arrival at the hall, I pretty much promptly plopped myself in my queen's chair and didn't move, other than for pictures and praying.

Time for pictures was hilarious -- Shaul and I, followed by our families, made our way to the Kotel plaza, where we were photographed by hundreds of tourists. Some of the tourists -- from a Polish group -- kept coming up to us and congratulating us "congratulations! We are from Poland. Good luck to you!" etc. They kept following us around, until finally somehow they got the hint that we didn't actually want them in all of our wedding pictures. :)

Okay, that's it for now... coffee's done... I'll try to post more wedding story stuff, etc., over the course of the next few mornings.

It's not really a cliff-hanger, you know... I already told you I'm married :)

07 September 2009

My tichel party

So first things first: a tichel (pronounced with the gutteral 'ch' sound, as in chutzpah) is a hair covering.

Most orthodox Jewish women cover their hair in some way after they get married. It comes down from the Torah that a woman married in accordance with Jewish law should cover her hair.

The way women choose to cover their hair depends on what their community standards are. Some women wear wigs, others wear hats, others wear scarves... there are thousands of possibilities, but mostly it depends on their communities.

At the moment, I'm not going to go into all the details of hair covering, except to say that although I find it to be a beautiful concept -- saving a beautiful part of myself for only my husband, as well as a clear symbol of being married -- I also find it very difficult.

During my ugliest years, and due to life circumstances, I felt there were many of them, the one thing I always understood was beautiful about myself was my hair. I remember liking getting my hair cut -- not just because of the head massage, and definitely not because of what my hair looked like afterward (it has a mind of its own) -- but because the hairdressers would always ooh and aah over my hair.

But as of yesterday, I was one week away from beginning this special mitzvah, and some of my amazing, holy and beautiful girlfriends came together and brought me scarves and scarve and scarves... and told stories, and laughed, and sang, and experimented with how different scarves look on my head.

It was an amazing and special evening, and I felt really blessed to have such awesome people in my life.

06 September 2009

And once again, time slides away from me...

I really did mean to update here a bit more often during the course of wedding planning, but here I find myself seven days away from our wedding, G-d willing, and realize I haven't updated in like, three weeks.


So here's the sitch:

Thank G-d, it looks like we've passed the bureaucratic obstacle course. We picked up the ketubah (Jewish marriage contract) on Thursday.

And as long as we have the groom, the bride, our families, the rabbi, the ring, and 10 Jewish men present one week from today, we're getting married in, oh, 172ish hours. Not that I'm counting. ;-)

Because we're doing a speedy engagement, even slightly speedy by Israeli standards, it means that there are people who are still now finding out we're engaged... and I'm sure that for a long time after the wedding, I'll be coming across people who had no idea I was even dating anyone, let alone engaged. That's what happens for keeping things so quiet, I know, and I hope that some of the people can and will forgive me for not having been in touch with them over the course of this period of time.

There are huge blessings all around us right now... things are coming together... I'm getting to know a cousin I barely knew... I love my job more than ever, because I'm finally working in a place where our Judaism (yiddishkeit) takes precedence over all else, so everyone there is thrilled for me, and ready to cut me some slack for being brainless nowadays. I love my chatan (groom) more than ever, also for being ready to cut me some slack for bring brainless nowadays ;-) I love my family more than ever, for being ready and willing to throw their entire lives out of whack to come join us for our wedding, and not complaining when we did it at what could possibly be the least convenient timing for them. I love G-d more than ever, for helping me through all of this craziness, and putting my future husband (no jinx) and I together at this point in time.

Life is freakin' awesome.